We had the good fortune of connecting with Asoniti Foster and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Asoniti Foster, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m from the city by the Bay, San Francisco and grew up in Bayview Hunter’s Point, which was a predominately Black community. Growing up during the early 90’s, on any given day you could walk down the street and hear the legendary rap group, RBL Posse song “No Bammer Weed” blasting from the speakers of someone’s car as they ride through the neighborhood. Martin Luther King Swimming Pool was where everyone learned how to swim, expect for me. Joseph Lee Gym was the ultimate hang out and stopping by Tic Tock Burgers on 3rd street would have you waiting all day for their popular sea burger with greasy fries that was sure to relieve any constipation. Those were some of the best and worst times that impacted who I am today. Back then, my community was riddled with drugs, unemployment, and crime where some of my closest friends died due to gun violence. Not wanting to fall victim to my community, at the age of 13 I enrolled in a summer program and began working for Young Community Developers (YCD) which was under the leadership of Carol Tatum, followed by Dwayne Jones. I also worked at several other organizations in the community including, CAHEED, under the leadership of Shirley Jones, The Bayview Opera House, under the leadership of Ivory Morton and Shelly Bradford Bell, and Whitney Young Child Development Center under the leadership of Careth Reid. Leadership is mentioned because those are a few people that influenced my life. They were resourceful, resilient, and determined to make Bayview Hunter’s Point a healthier place for all. Watching them inspired me as I quickly learned that helping people was a way to connect with communities and strengthen social perception. I exercise that same dedication, tenacity and leadership while helping to change the culture of mental wellness and Alzheimer’s awareness.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My company PUZZLED2020 was birthed because I believe mental wellness and Alzheimer’s awareness is important for all ages. My journey began after experiencing mental illness and losing the fabric of life: family, friends, and finances. Within an extremely short amount of time, my daughters’ father died on Christmas Day, followed by both my grandmothers passing due to Alzheimer’s and what I thought was a promising career, dissolved in my hands. Soon after back-to-back, heart-breaking deaths, and financial hardship, the COVID Pandemic hit, significantly increasing mental illness worldwide – including my daughter and me. But it would be one phone call that helped spark a change I didn’t see coming.
I was asked to help a great aunt who was transitioning from independent living to assistant living as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. What was supposed to be a day of just spending time with her, turned into a discovery I’ll always remember. I enjoyed her presents, however after the tenth time of her saying the same thing, I recalled both my grandmothers dying from Alzheimer’s and began to wonder if I could get it. That night I researched the disease and discovered I was on an Alzheimer’s track with the risk factors to prove it: trauma, depression, and heredity. The most shocking discovery was women are more likely to have it than men and African American women are twice as likely to have it than the national average. YIKES!
From that moment, I was motivated and determined to do something about the statistics surrounding Alzheimer’s which not surprisingly include mental illness. So, my daughter and I started producing a documentary about Alzheimer’s, focusing on people under 50 and those affected the most: my community, culture, and gender. I now realize the loss of my family, friends, and finances, helped turn my pain into a passion with a purpose – not only to seek a solution for myself and my daughter but also giving back by providing awareness and mental wellness support products. Our Gratitude Banks with meditation music can be purchased form our website.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In a week-long trip to Los Angeles, I would first take my best friend to have breakfast at The Coffee Co. in Westchester. After enjoying a delicious brunch, we’d drive to the Fashion District in downtown LA, to spend the entire day walking around shopping. Once night falls, we’d change and prepare to have dinner at Crustaceans, in Beverly Hills – ordering the seabass and garlic noodles. The next day we’d take the ferry to Catalina Island and stay at Mt Ada Hotel for a few days. We’ll drive around the island in go carts, sit seaside along the beach, win some money at the casino, and simply relish in the fresh air while absorbing the scenery. By the end of the week, we’d head back to my place, dropping off our luggage, then swing by Little Belize Restaurant in Inglewood. I’d order my favorite: fish panadas and garnaches with their homemade spicy onion and habanero sauce. We’d then walk around the shops and swap meet on Market Street. Once night falls, we’d change clothes and go listen to live music at La Louisiana. On the last day of the visit, we’re not in a rush to say good-bye, but time is of the essences to get to the airport on time, so we’ll grab a quick healthy smoothy from Simply Wholesome. While drinking it, I drive my friend to the airport and give well wishes for safe travel. Heading back home, I’m looking forward to getting some rest from our great, eventful week.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are a few mentors that I’ve mentioned and praised in previous interviews, but I’d like to recognize and thank someone who can’t get any closer to my heartbeat than she can. My daughter, Soni Foster-Jackson. She is a light to my candle, umbrella to my rain and key to my lock. Everyday I’m reminded and encouraged by her wise, supportive, and sometimes humorous words to continue pushing through obstacles and keep growing. She and I have experienced many traumatizing life events that have comprised our mental capacity and living condition, yet she still somehow manages to help me see a silver lining and find value in difficult situations. I am forever grateful and honored to be her mother. She is my greatest achievement, truly an angle sent to fill my heart with unconditional love. Credit is due to her not only because she’s my daughter, but also because she’s the inspiration behind our gratitude products and Alzheimer’s awareness documentary we’re producing titled, “Puzzled”.
Youtube: Puzzled 2020